Apple is in a bit of a pickle over the discovery that its e-dictionary, which is the New Oxford American Dictionary, contains a derogatory definition for the word “gay.”
But with a little sleuthing, I found that the Apple dictionary also has a slur definition for the word “Jew,” “Welsh,” and “Polack.”
Of course, on further digging, all definitions are not equal.
Let’s start with gay:
Apple includes the slang/slur definition of gay, that’s usually used by kids, but sometimes adults too, meaning “stupid, dumb, foolish” or generally something you don’t like. First problem? Apple says the word is “often” offensive. Often offensive? Sometimes it’s okay to say “that’s so gay” and it’s not offensive? I’d be curious in what circumstance.
Let’s move on to “Jew”:
I’m intrigued that Apple includes the slur “to jew down” (a phrase I wasn’t even familiar with until I moved out to DC from Chicago). Perhaps the Apple dictionary includes most slurs, I’m not sure. Also, it’s interesting that in this case, there’s no “often” qualifying the “offensive.”
Now Welsh (or welch, as I always heard it as a kid):
Interesting that this one isn’t offensive at all. Then again, I never even knew the word derived from the Welsh when I was a kid, and I don’t know too many Welsh people, so I don’t know if this is considered a slur or not.
Next, a word we definitely grew up with in Chicago, and definitely used as a pejorative:
Apple does say that the word is “offensive,” but that is not the definition of the pejorative “polack,” or “polish” as we would say in Chicago to mean something that looks ugly, stupid, or doesn’t go together well, like clothing (in Greek, they use the word “Chinese” to mean the same notion).
Ok, this is interesting, Apple does contain the n-word:
So now it’s apparent that the dictionary does in fact contain slur words, and it does attempt to define them, and indicate when they’re offensive. Even though in the case of “gay,” it’s only “often” offensive.
Wow, they’ve even got this one:
And yikes, after publication I decided to check on more word, and there it is:
Okay one more, since a reader joking asked if this word was in the Apple dictionary – it is:
Of course, that isn’t the entire definition, nor is it the entire usage of the slur. In fact, they don’t even indicate the slur, they just indicate that it’s vulgar slang for the female genitals. It’s far more than that. Now, I’m not sure I want that definition even in there, but it is interesting that Apple is pulling punches on this definition, whereas in the others, mostly, they’re not.
Okay, so it’s clear that the Apple dictionary does contain slurs. So I’m less troubled by the inclusion of the slur word “gay” by itself. The larger question would appear to be whether slurs should be included at all. I’m not wholly against that, if it is make clear that the words are in fact slurs. The more I look at the gay definition, the more it looks like a typo – check it out again:
Why is the word offensive in italics AND in the middle of the definition? It’s almost as if they weren’t trying to say “often offensive,” but rather “often foolish, stupid, or unimpressive” and threw the offensive mistakenly in the middle of the definition. Did they mean to say “informal, offensive” and then give the definition?
And it gets even more interesting. The young girl who first found the definition, was most upset because the definition didn’t say that the word is a pejorative expression, i.e., offensive. But the definition does say that, albeit in an odd mal-placed way.
I had planned to be outraged on this one, but the definition isn’t wrong, and the dictionary clearly includes slur words for other minorities. The only problem seems to be the qualifier on “gay” being offensive, when there’s no qualifier on other words.
One last check on another word:
Hmm, another qualifier before the word “offensive.” Or again, was apply trying to say that the word is “chiefly a male homosexual” and they were throwing the word “offensive” in the middle to make it clear that this usage was offensive. But they don’t do that weird splitting the definition in half with other slurs, so why do with gay ones?
I think, if anything, Apple has a consistency problem with its definitions. Fix that, and they’re probably fine. Assuming you don’t have a problem with slur words in a dictionary to begin with. Personally, I don’t mind the slur words. I do mind the definitions being inconsistent with regards to how they indicate offense. Any kind of double-standard would be totally gay.